|"hey wait for us!" Action from the game. (Prussian artillery follows the advance of von Hill).|
I host an annual ‘Big Napoleonic Mystery Battle” each summer and invite the regular players of our developing rules of GdC for an all day affair. I am always pleased that James and Ron from Oregon make the long 250km trek to join me along with DaveB from the Island (also a bit of a trek with the ferry and all) to come to Surrey BC, Canada to participate in my ‘mystery’ historical battle. Unfortunately SethT of Seattle had pressing work commitments and had to bow out shortly before the date. I kept the scenario in the realm of Napoleonics this time with the Battle of Vitoria, Spain, 1813 but using my Prussians and Russian in lieu of the British, Portuguese and Spanish of Wellington’s army.
Couple of the locals, ChrisP and KevinA took Dalhousie/Picton’s command and D’Erlon’s French together with Joseph’s small “Royal” contingents ,respectively. The French commands of Gazan and Reille would be DaveB’s. He is experienced enough to handle these important forces. James and Ron decided to stay on the same side (so able to trade the war stories on the ride home!) and thus took Colesky (the historical Gen. Cole but as we were using his own Russians….) and Ron, the Prussians under “von Hill” (obviously the British General Hill). This left Graham and his Russians ‘Grahamsky’ under my usual dubious command.
The deployments and numbers were kept as historical as possible. Thus Cole and Hill came in from the east end of the table to try to pin the French while Dalhousie/Picton “von Pikton” came over the eastern most of the northern crossings of the Zadorra River. Graham, “Grahamsky” , was to take the furthest of the crossings to trap the French in the valley from their escape route to the east.
Unlike the French command in 1813, the French of the game, looked at the table and concluded the trap was on and proceeded to set up for an immediate general retreat eastward only restricted by my scenario deployments.
|Ron and James contemplate the situation. The pressures of High Command!|
|The height of the battle with the French defence of the "central hill" collapsing.|
Despite some initial set-backs, the Allies of James and Ron, aggressively pursued the French forcing them to make a concerted stand near Chrispijana. ChrisP added his numbers to the attack on this position. The French needed to slow the Allied advance all the while retreating elements east before the door would close from Graham’s force. Perhaps luckily for the French, I was commanding Graham and, like the historic commander, I could only slowly deploy my forces against the French LOC to Pamplona toward the north east corner of the battlefield. However with the French unable to do much than cover Graham with artillery from coming directly via the Gammara Mayor crossing, Graham committed forces spread out to the further crossing at Durana but with that, completely cutting off that route to the French retreaters (as was done historically).
|While I did much the poor effort that Graham did in 1813, I did manage to block the main retreat road of the French which was enough. Photo of the lead Russian light cavalry. Infantry and artillery support would follow.|
The final turn had us play 20 turns (some 10 hours of battle which started late in the morning real time in 1813) The famous looting of Joseph’s wagons and treasures gathered from all of Spain was not completed however as the French (the wagons under the command of KevinA’s “Joseph’s Spainish Royal” contingent) were driven away just in front of the pursuing Allies, thereby giving the French some small argument that it was only a minor Allied victory….
But despite the lack of the wagons capture, the battle went basically to historic form with the French to be shortly expelled from Spain.
James playing “Colesky” (the historical command of the British General Cole) provides the following AAR of the action:
“ I thought the Allies would be the aggressors to kick things off, with Colesky coming across the western bridge and von Hill having sneaked up on the dastardly French from the south end of the hills. We should have easily pushed through the French defense, even with Picton dallying around (waiting for double evens(*), which came the 2nd turn!). Colesky made the decision to forgo splitting his command and making use of the hidden ford(^) to maintain a firmer control of his troops as the PiP cost of moving some elements out of command would have impacted the command’s ability to move forward.
|James' own Pavlograd Hussars leading the assault|
Gazan surprised us by going on the offensive. The French cavalry stymied our movement, forcing us to deal with them and allowing for a retreat behind the hills east of Ariñez and what looked to be a full-on withdrawal. Gazan was able to check the allied thrust for four turns, causing a loss of both horse artillery bases and making Colesky rethink things (by forcing a moral check which caused a fallback result). Picton was making his presence felt crossing the Zaddora.
Having absorbed the initial French push, Colesky and von Pikton began their push. In a bit of combined arms, the Pavlograd Hussars forced a French infantry element into square which was subsequently assaulted and destroyed by some Russian infantry. Ariñez was taken the following turn and the race was on, as the three Allied commands began pushing eastward. Picton began taking substantial fire from d’Erlon. Von Pikton screened Chrispijana and advanced as well. Grahamsky decided to show up and began blocking the main retreat line of the French.
Gazan and d’Erlon massed behind the central hill and at this point, it could have gone either way. The Allies amasses on the opposite side, but the loss of Colesky’s foot artillery (I’m sensing a theme...) caused another fallback. Von Pikton, after a whiff of grape removed the last of the French cavalry, pushed forward and forced Gazan to rout. Colesky finished off Gazan with another feat of combined arms. Grahamsky stubbornly denied the line of retreat. As night fell, the French were in retreat and the Allies the controllers the field. “
(*Note): This was the scenario trying to simulate Dalhousie’s cautious approach. Eventually the historical Picton would be so frustrated and take things into his own hands and order his division into the action (for which I committed the entire force). ChrisP, being his usual lucky self, achieved the rather difficult dice in a very short time and so went to the attack quickly.
(^Note): The ford, the location of which was not disclosed to the French, was the one Kempt and his Light Division used upon being advised by a local Spanish peasant. In future, Cole will be given the option to use some of his force for this purpose without hindrance of that distant command for his PiP amount for a historical scenario design.
|James's own Russians...looking good in their attack|